Discover key changes to immigration regulations in Brazil, Cambodia, Switzerland, and Vietnam.
SWITZERLAND | Third Quarter Quota for EU/EFTA L and B Permits Exhausted
The quota of Swiss L and B Permits available for European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA) country nationals has been exhausted across Switzerland for the third quarter of 2016. Depending on the canton where the employee will be working, some EU/EFTA nationals assigned to Switzerland will not be able to obtain their L or B Permits until the new quota for the fourth quarter opens on October 1. Shorter assignments for up to 120 days are not affected.
The L Permit is the most common residence authorization for foreign nationals who will reside in Switzerland for three months to one year, and the longer-term B Permit is issued to foreign nationals for residences up to five years. For 2016, 2,000 L Permits and 250 B Permits were allocated to EU/EFTA nationals, and 4,000 L Permits and 2,500 B Permits were allocated to non-EU/EFTA nationals.
This is the second time the L Permit quarterly quotas for EU/EFTA nationals have been reached this year. The assigned quotas were likewise exhausted before the end of the second quarter. The shortages seen in the previous two years are a result of massive reductions in the quotas imposed by the Federal Council in 2015 and continued into 2016. See our Global Brief of December 10, 2015 for additional details. The continued shortages of both L and B Permits will likely be ongoing absent any increase of the quotas by the Council.
This current oversubscription was exacerbated by the shortage in the preceding quarter as some cantons chose make provisional decisions on permit applications, issue temporary permits, and then provide final permits that counted against the present quarter’s quota levels. The 26 cantons in Switzerland have broad latitude in administering their immigration policies and vary in their approaches to these shortages. While many cantons are choosing to simply wait for the new quota to open before accepting new applications, Zurich, Geneva, and Basel appear to be continuing the provisional permit route in an attempt to accommodate assignment start dates occurring before October 1. Depending on the canton in question, employers may need to adjust assignment timings accordingly.
In Geneva, the permits shortage has been particularly severe. It is feared in this canton that the resulting backlog will soon exhaust its entire 2016 allocation of L and B Permits for EU/EFTA nationals. The Geneva canton has already exhausted its entire allocation of non-EU/EFTA L and B Permits for 2016.
Employers of foreign nationals planning assignments in Switzerland through the end of 2016 are advised to be in close communication with their immigration advisors. The availability of L Permits and B permits will continue to be tight, especially for EU/EFTA nationals, and there may be delays before permits are available. Further, as the rules and procedures in the individual cantons vary, it is imperative that employers and their employees are getting the best advice from professionals experienced in working with the unique system in Switzerland. Pro-Link GLOBAL and its KGNM Offices in Switzerland continue to monitor this situation and will advise its clients accordingly.
Immigration Changes from Around the World
BRAZIL | Public Servants Strike and Presidential Impeachment Causing Immigration Delays
The labor strike by the National Union of Public Servants of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Sinditamaraty) continues. The strike by workers in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs both in Brazil and abroad has been ongoing since August 22. According to Sinditamaraty, the strike is a partial work stoppage designed to allow Brazilian Embassies and Consulates to operate at 30 percent capacity and continue to provide “essential services,” including passports and consular assistance. While some consulates are experiencing only minor processing delays, others are beginning to report more significant service backlogs.
In the case of foreign nationals immigrating to Brazil for employment, the strike greatly impacts the ability of the Ministry of External Relations (MRE) to forward work permit approvals issued by the Ministry of Labor to the Brazilian overseas consulates for processing of the work visas. Foreign nationals and their employers should be prepared for significant delays for the foreseeable future, both during the strike and after as the MRE and Brazilian Embassies and Consulates process the resulting backlog.
The union and the government have been in negotiations, primarily over salary demands, since March of 2015, but talks have recently stalled. Pro-Link GLOBAL’s senior immigration specialist in Brazil sees no immediate end to the strike. Employers anticipating employee assignments to Brazil are advised to communicate the need well in advance to their immigration advisors so that excessive immigration delays and interruptions in business plans may be minimized.
In an unrelated development, but one also certain to impact immigration, Brazil’s Senate voted last Wednesday to remove President Dilma Rouseff by impeachment. This in turn prompted immediate announcements by the nations of Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador that they were pulling their ambassadors from Brazil. Brazil, in response, then recalled its ambassadors from the three nations. While the developments have yet to fully transpire, there will likely be impact on visa processes between Brazil and these nations. Employers sponsoring Venezuelan, Bolivian, and Ecuadorian foreign national employees in Brazil and Brazilian foreign national employees working in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador should contact their immigration advisors to assess this potential impact.
CAMBODIA | New Longer-Term Multiple-Entry Visas Now Available
The Cambodian government announced that, starting September 1, it will begin offering new multiple-entry business and tourist visas for periods as long as three years to foreign nationals of various countries. Details of this new policy are still being clarified, however, and no official information has been published regarding the eligible nationalities, requirements, and fees.
According to an official within the General Department of Immigration, the conditions of the visas and the fees will vary depending upon the agreements between the governments of the applicants and Cambodia. So far, Japan has finalized an agreement for its citizens to receive three-year visas, and China and South Korea are likewise negotiating for a three-year visa option. Currently, most business visitors to Cambodia receive a one-year visa.
While the plan is aimed primarily at visitors of the surrounding APAC nations, Department officials have stated that the new more-flexible visas will be open to all foreign nationals. The hope is that by making regular travel to Cambodia more convenient, it will attract up to 7.5 million new foreign visitors by 2020. Many see this as an attempt by Cambodia to capitalize on recent moves by Thailand to tighten its regulations on long-term stays. Pro-Link GLOBAL will continue to monitor the changes here and report on specifics as official information is released.
VIETNAM | New E-Visas and One-Year Visas Coming
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has announced that another VND 200 billion (USD 8.8 million) has been allocated to advance Vietnam’s transition to an e-visa system. The hope is that the new system could debut as early as January 1, 2017. Once implemented, the new e-visas should greatly speed-up the visa application process for business travelers. Vietnam does currently provide visa waivers for citizens of 22 countries and visas-on-arrival for others, but long queues and consular requirements often make the process inconvenient for travelers.
This push towards the e-visa system appears to be part of ongoing efforts to streamline and liberalize the immigration scheme in Vietnam. Earlier this year, the government renewed its 15-day visa waiver policy for citizens of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain and Italy for another year. Further, Vietnam is reportedly working towards a policy of extending the validity of visas for nationals of numerous countries from three months to one year. Currently, these visas are issued with a standard 90-day validity, with one-year visas occasionally granted on a case-by-case basis. Now it appears there is a concerted effort to normalize the one-year option, and some observers expect to see official implementation ahead of the e-visa system coming online.
Like the aforementioned immigration changes in Cambodia, the changes in Vietnam are elements of a long-term plan to attract more business and tourism travelers to the Indochinese Peninsula. In Vietnam the effort already appears to be succeeding, with the number of foreign visitors in 2016 already up a reported 12 percent over last year. Pro-Link GLOBAL is continuing to watch Vietnam and the entire APAC region with interest and an eye toward opportunities for our clients.
Reminders: Recent and Upcoming Immigration Implementations
The following are reminders of recent or upcoming implementation dates that you should know:
- September, Ireland – New EPOS online Employment Application system comes online this month. Previous paper application forms are no longer accepted. DJEI Employment Permits Section urges applications to wait for EPOS to come online to submit new applications. (See our Global Brief of August 10 for additional details)
- September 5-9, Russia – The Head Migration Office (HMO) in Moscow is temporarily closing to move office locations. It is no longer accepting or issuing documents at its bldg. 1 Verkhnaya Radischevskaya str. location, but it will open again at 4 Boyarsky pereulok (“Krasnye Vorota” metro station). Delays are likely for applications for highly qualified specialists at the HMO until the new office opens as expected on September 9th.
- September 9-13, Muslim nations – The Islamic holiday of Eid al-Adha will be observed in Muslim nations throughout the world. Exact dates of observance may vary by a day or two in some countries. Private companies, public offices and government offices will be closed.
- September 14-16, APAC region – The Mid-Autumn or Moon Festival will be observed over one to three days by various nations in this region, including China (15-16), Hong Kong (16), South Korea (14-16), and Taiwan (15-16). Private companies, public offices and government offices will be closed.
Caveat Lector | Warning to Reader
This is provided as informational only and does not substitute for actual legal advice based on the specific circumstances of a matter. Readers are reminded that Immigration laws are fluid and can change at a moment's notice without any warning. Please reach out to your local Pro-Link GLOBAL specialist should you require any additional clarification. This alert was prepared by Pro-Link GLOBAL's Counsel and Knowledge Management teams. We worked with our PLG | KGNM Cambodia Office “Asian Tigers Mobility”, our PLG | KGNM Switzerland Offices “Covinus” and “Sgier und Partner GmbH”, and PLG | KGNM Vietnam Office “Resident Vietnam” to provide you this update.
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